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Thread: Comics are For People 13: DC on the Spot and 1st Indie Corner!

  1. MattGrant Guest

    Comics are For People 13: DC on the Spot and 1st Indie Corner!

    After Watchmen Follow Up

    I know, I know. MORE Watchmen. But this is really more about how happy I am with DC's handling of this whole "After Watchmen" campaign. Regular readers will remember that I called out DC several columns back after repeatedly dropping the ball on what should have been a really good year for Batman.

    Now I know that DiDio says over and over that his end of things has nothing to do with what happens with properties in other media (I can dig that). But, DC clearly was caught with their pants down when Dark Knight hit billion dollar status and their main Batman offering was RIP, a story line that even many seasoned superhero comics fans were a tad put off by... followed by a couple fake, and under publicized deaths. I wrote about it already, I don't need to go into the gory details, but the point is, DC seem to have learned their lesson, and are ready to capitalize on the potential influx of new comics fans coming from Watchmen.

    As you know last week, I directed folks attention to DC's new website, which directed new comics readers, pulled in by Watchmen, to other comics they might enjoy. While I was excited and pleased to see that they had gone through the effort to put this website together, I was even more pleased and excited to find the publication "After Watchmen... What's Next?" at my local comic shop.

    Hopefully they're shipping these buggers to the places that really need, em. Places like Borders, Barnes & Noble, or that other one I always hear about (Books A Million is it? We don't have that out here in the land of sunshine and debt). I don't have any near home (lame) to check up on, but I have to assume that if DC is going through the effort of printing these, they'd be concerned with getting them into bookstores first, and comic shops second. It would stand to reason that if you're in a comic book store, you're probably familiar with comics that you like. I'm just guessing.

    The publication itself is brilliant. Naturally it's heavily black and yellow themed... Watchmen. The presentation, I think, is fantastic. Not what you typically see for comics advertisements, and perhaps its what we should be seeing. Like I mentioned last week, there are various categories that call out to more Alan More, stuff by Best Selling Authors (such as Neil Gaiman or Brad Meltzer), modern super heroes, and mature readers. What Really spoke to me about this presentation, though was the fact that besides showing an illustration and giving a blurb of info about the books, they actually show a few pages of the comic (not full sized preview pages, but a layout of pages within the ad). A real head slapper.

    I think this really bridges the gap as far as advertising comics to non comics readers. How? Well imagine you're a non comics reader. You go into the store you see this pamphlet that has something to do with Watchmen, that movie you liked so much in the theatre. You're flipping through it. Now a single pinup type ad, might look cool, but really tells you nothing about what the experience of reading the comic is like. In fact, I think for a lot of non-comics readers, its comparable to a prose book ad that features a picture of the book cover. Its an image that is fairly abstracted from what the possibilities that the interior has to offer. Even the best written blurb (or what we call "copy" in my line of work), can't do that for you.

    BUT at the same time, several pages of a comic full size printed (totally throwing aside the fact that it would eat up most of the pamphlet) is too much of an investment of time for the casual flip through, especially for someone who is potentially put off by the prospect of reading comics. But this After Watchmen pamphlet hits both areas effectively. The re-printed pages are small enough to give room for all the other elements of the page (blurb, pin-up illustration), but large enough for someone to effectively examine (and even read). A true winner!

    My column is called Comics Are For People, and it's so rare that the industry really reaches out to potential new readers (merchandising aside), that I had to re-visit this topic a bit. I think they really did a good job with this campaign, and I really hope that they're implementing it at book stores and whatnot. Hopefully this turns out to be a successful thing for DC, comics gets some new readers, and this is possibly the beginning of marketing comics to... y'know... the outside world!

    Indie Corner: Hotwire

    As part of my "new leaf" I'm turning over with this column lately, one of the things I want to do is to highlight/review an indie comic (hopefully) every week. Not anything that's really solicited to us (Project Fanboy has the reviews section for that), but just cool comics that I find and am jazzed about. Marvel and DC get talked about quite a bit, but, while I enjoy their comics, I really feel that for the medium and the industry to thrive, we need to realize and support the "indie" side of the market, as comics are a not limited to any specific genre, and certainly not 70 year old men in blue tights (I'm looking at you Kal). I'm very open to any suggestions you may have-- so send em my way.

    So this week, or actually its been sitting in my "to read" drawer (I have a 2 year old, anything of value goes in drawers), I'm gonna tell you about Hotwire.

    Hotwire is published by Radical, and is a four part mini. I'm not sure where the hell Radical came from, but there here and they're making themselves feel big (they had a sizable booth at WonderCon, at least). They've made their way into my local shop, which is saying something, with an offering of several books, all that have a painterly approach to comics illustration (and typically $2.99). The one that really grabbed my attention was Hotwire by Steve Pugh (apparently based upon a story created by Warren Ellis a while back).

    Now, keep in mind that I'm not really one for the "painted" (I'd be surprised if its not digital) look in comics. Yeah, I dig something special from Alex Ross or whoever once in a while, but to me it was always kind of a gimmick. I also am a firm believer in Scott McCloud's theory that the simplified cartoon is easier for a reader to identify with and put themselves into (that totally doesn't do the theory justice, check it out, and other mind blowing concepts, in his book that everyone should read Understanding Comics). So, the fact that I even bought this book, is something of a miracle. Something pulled me in though. It was like the vibe of this comic leapt of the page!

    So, the comic is about this quasi-future society where the spirits of the dead no longer move on, but stay on earth. They take a sci-fi approach and call the spirits blue-lights. A number of measures have been taken to keep the blue-lights out of the majority of the general population, but, of course, things happen. The approach to this book is sort of a procedural police drama. The protagonist, Hotwire, is some kind of forensic cop that specializes in blue-lights. Naturally, she's a bit of a loose cannon, which gets her into some tight spots. Her approach is very scientific, if you do do A, B happens. That's how she'd been catching ghosts up to this point, but one of them doesn't react the way she expects, and she soon becomes determined to find out what the hell is going on.

    The writing is very good. I'm not much of and Ellis reader, but I'm told that Pugh's approach here is very similar to Ellis' style (I guess I need to check out some Ellis). The story is really well thought out, and features a lot of great little details and fantastic character interactions, without detracting from the overall story. While some characters are clear throwaways, the ones that matter feel very well developed.

    The art, as well, is very well executed. There's a really good attention to detail that totally immerses you in Pugh's vision of this future society. Once again, he hits that right pitch where, its enough to make you feel like this world is real, but not so much that you're getting pulled from the story by all the details. Good job overall, and remember, this is coming from someone who's more into the pen'n'ink type of comics... so there.

    Overall a good read, I'll definitely be picking up the second issue (out soon I believe). An interesting tid-bit. When I was reading this book, my wife saw it and said, "what's that?" and I told her about it. And for the first time, she said to me, "Uhm.... can I read that when you're done?"

    That's all for this week...

    Kind of an understatement, I guess this turned out to be a long-ish column. No big plans for a feature story next week, we'll just see what happens, and hopefully I'll return with something good for Indie Corner!

    If you're in the comic shop/book store/wherever this week, and you happen on some of those Watchmen pamphlets, grab a couple and give em to your friends cause COMICS ARE FOR PEOPLE!


    Matt Grant is a graphic designer and self-publishing comics and webcomics creator. His comic MastorisM can be read at and updates Tuesdays and Thursdays. A long time comics fanatic and advocate for the medium, Matt eats, sleeps, and breathes comics. It's like a super-power, only lamer.

    Matt would love nothing more than to hear from fans, retailers, creators, and publishers that have anything relevant to contribute to his column. He believes that, only by working together, we can bring the comics medium to a wider deserving audience. Please feel free to email him at, private message him here, or harass him on the street! Matt does not claim to be an industry expert in any way shape or form, but rather an opinionated pundit on the sidelines.
    Last edited by MattGrant; Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 10:46 PM.

  2. Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Post Thanks / Like

    You're really diggin' that Hotwire book aren't ya?

    I was eyein' it at my LCS, yesterday. Guess I'll have to check it out.
    "Living Robert Venditti's Plan B!"

    CAT. 5

  3. MattGrant Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by SebastianPiccione View Post
    You're really diggin' that Hotwire book aren't ya?

    I was eyein' it at my LCS, yesterday. Guess I'll have to check it out.
    Indie Corner's first victim!

    hahah.. I forgot to mention is got 28 pages of actual comic, too... and at $2.99 (well that part I did mention).

  4. Dingo Guest

    I'd heard Radical is a movie deal farming company. If they are going to do good stories anyway, I might give them a look.

  5. JamesFreeman Guest

    I kinda have mixed feelings about the whole "After-Watchmen" campaing.

    While anything that introduces new readers to comics is great, it seems kind of like comic book snobbery. I dunno, but it just seems that the way it presents stuff like Identity Crisis as mature sort of implies that the majority of other titles arent.

    Like, I still think a lot of people out there think comics are still these little kiddie books, and choosing to single out a few books as "mature" only adds to that sentiment.

    It reminds me of a friend who went with me to see the Dark Knight. When we were all walking out of the theater, she said, "It was good, but they tried too hard to make it look like Batman is dark and badass". I wanted to scream "have you read a comic in the last two decades?!", but I didn't.

    I just think we should try harder to show people that comics aren't just for kids anymore.

  6. MattGrant Guest

    I don't disagree that there are a number of stigma attached to comics and comics reading that we have to over come. But I do think that After Watchmen is far more helpful than it is harmful.

    For one, "Mature Readers" is just one category of five that they present in their campaign that also includes Modern Superheroes (which is actually what contains ID Crisis, not trying to be a smart ass, just lettin you know), Best Selling Authors, Pushing the Boundaries of Science Fiction, and Other Books by Alan Moore.

    So, to me, that really says that they're trying to identify the possible reasons why someone would be curious beyond watchmen, and then showing them what's available. I didn't really see it as a value judgment. Plenty of the selections in, say, "Books that Define Modern Superheroes" that wouldn't be classified as mature, such as All-Star Superman. Its a great modern take on Superman, but its certainly got appeal for all age groups.

    With something like this, I think DC could have done a lot worse, and they could have done it in a fashion thats a lot more insulting to the comics medium. Like I said, comics have plenty of stigma attached to them, there's no doubting that, but I really think that this campaign is a step in the right direction for a medium that has sunk so far into itself, and the belief that there will always be a crop of new fans showing up every ten years. Cause there's not.

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